The FWD-02 headphones offer an excellent fit and passable sound quality, but lack ANC and struggle to stand out from other sports headphones.
- Secure and comfortable fit
- Easy-to-use controls
- Awareness mode
- No ANC
- Poorly designed case
- Buggy connection to app
Adidas has released three sets of sports headphones in the past few months, with the new FWD-02 buds sitting in between the ZNE 01 and ZNE 01 ANC in the range. The FWD-02 headphones offer the best fit for exercise of the trio and have the longest battery life too. However, they lack the active noise cancellation available on the ZNE 01 ANC, which cost £30 more, and are considerably more expensive than the open-fit ZNE 01 buds, which cost £90.
While the FWD-02 headphones stand out as the best choice to wear while exercising in Adidas’s range, largely thanks to the secure fit, you can certainly find better options for gym headphones or running headphones from other brands, which include ANC and superior sound quality, for £140 or less.
Adidas FWD-02 Sport Headphones Review: Price And Availability
The FWD-02 headphones were announced in late 2021 and went on sale in February 2022 in the UK. They cost £139.99.
Buy from Adidas (opens in new tab) | £139.99
The FWD-02 headphones have in-ear tips that block out external sound passively and wings to keep them in place. There are four different sizes of ear tips in the box and five different sizes of wings so most people will be able to get a secure and comfortable fit.(opens in new tab)
The water resistance rating is IPX5, which means the buds are not fully waterproof but will easily cope with regular exposure to sweat or use in the rain. They have 6mm drivers and both buds have a force touch panel on the side to control music playback.
These panels work well. You can’t accidentally set off the controls when adjusting the fit of the buds – it takes a deliberate touch – but it’s also easy to use the controls when you mean to, even when wearing gloves.(opens in new tab)
The case is IPX4 rated, which means it's splash-proof, but I struggle to see how this can be the case given that the lid has a large fabric section. Adidas says this is to let your buds “air out” after use, something which doesn’t seem necessary, given that headphones can be dried in seconds before popping them back in the case.
When splashed the fabric to see what would happen and it immediately let water soak through which was then held against the buds inside. This fabric section feels like a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, and in fact introduces another problem, because the headphones inside are less well protected.
Another quirk is that the lid is only connected to the rest of the case by magnets, rather than a hinge. The magnets are strong, but there have been a couple of occasions when the lid has detached from the case and the headphones have tumbled free. Again, it strikes me as a strange design decision that hinders rather than helps.(opens in new tab)
There is an Adidas Headphones partner app to adjust the EQ and change the controls on the buds. Connecting to this app was often a pain though, and I had to completely uninstall it at one point to get the FWD-02 buds to pair with it, even though they were able to link to my phone without problems.
This is undoubtedly the strongest feature of the FWD-02 headphones. The fit is secure for all types of exercise, and they are also comfortable to wear for long periods. The variety of wings and tips in the box mean you can get a reliable fit without having to opt for an uncomfortably large or intrusive wing, and I found that even during sweaty indoor runs and workouts the buds stayed firmly in place with no need to adjust them.
The sound quality on the FWD-02 headphones is by no means bad, but I did find it a little underwhelming compared with other buds I’ve been testing lately. There is a lack of clarity in the higher ranges, with instruments muddying together slightly, and the bass isn’t all that powerful. Adjusting the EQ in the partner app didn’t produce a huge effect either.
While ANC is not always that useful during exercise, it is now such a common feature that it’s surprising that the FWD-02 buds don’t have it, especially for £140. The in-ear tips do block out noise passively, but you can find solid headphones for under £100 with ANC.
The awareness mode on the buds is useful when exercising in busy areas, though I found it did have an impact on the quality of the audio. There was a slightly scratchy, almost white-noise, sound when it was in use.
There was nothing glaringly wrong with the sound quality and options on the FWD-02 buds in isolation, but they fall short of the standard set by other buds, including cheaper options like the Jabra Elite 4 Active.(opens in new tab)
You get six hours of playback from the FWD-02 buds and another 19 from the case, and the quick charge feature will net you an hour of playtime from 15 minutes of charging. These are all solid, if unremarkable, numbers, and I found that the specs matched my experience.
Are The Adidas FWD-02 Sport Worth It?
While the FWD-02 are a solid all-round set of sports headphones and the best option in Adidas’s range, there are better options around and even below their price. If you can afford to spend £20 more, then the JBL Reflect Flow Pro offer more features, including ANC, as well as better sound quality and battery life. The Jabra Elite 4 Active headphones are £119.99 and superior to the FWD-02 buds on most fronts, though the wingless design will mean that they don’t have a perfect fit for everyone.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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